Storm's Sue Bird is among Seattle's legendary point guards
Storm's Sue Bird is scoring more this season, but remains a pass-first point guard.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Sue Bird is in the eye of the hurricane.
As she races to the top of the key, keeping her dribble alive, keeping her head up and allowing her eyes to scan the frontcourt, the hoop computer in her head assesses the possibilities.
She can square up and quick-trigger a jumper. She can run off a screen and decide whether to drive, pass or shoot. She can fire a pass to Swin Cash or Katie Smith curling around a pick.
For a decade now, Bird has been the Seattle Storm's decision-maker. And no matter whom the Storm coach was, there hasn't been a more secure feeling than seeing Bird with the basketball in her hands.
In a city that has been spoiled by a line of remarkable point guards from Lenny Wilkens to Gus Williams, Nate McMillan to Gary Payton, Bird belongs on the list.
"She's the best point guard in the world," said Storm coach Brian Agler.
Bird doesn't like the term, but she's an old-school point guard, like John Stockton or Dawn Staley.
She's the kind of player you take your aspiring daughter or son to see and tell them, "Study her."
"I always knew that she was a great player," Agler said. "I didn't understand, until I got here, how well she understood the game and how she understands how her presence can impact a game.
"I can guarantee there are 30 NBA teams that wish they had a player on their team that played the game like she did. She's as smart a player as I've ever been around."
If Agler has a criticism, it might be that Bird doesn't call her own number enough.
"He gets mad at me," Bird said.
But in the last seconds of a game, like last week's home win over Connecticut, Bird won't hesitate to take — and usually make — the last shot.
She's a pass-first point who knows how to score. She's selfless except in those times when the game demands that she be selfish.
"She has a go-to player's talent," Agler said. "It's natural for her to set up her teammates and she's the best in the world at doing that. But she's also the best at closing a game out and hitting game-winning shots."
With Lauren Jackson out with a hip injury since the fifth game, Bird has had to score more. She entered Thursday's game averaging 15.3 points per game, almost three more than her career average.
Jackson is looking and feeling as if she's close to returning, but in her absence the Storm (13-10) has stayed in the playoff race.
"By nature, I do want to set my teammates up," Bird said before Thursday's win over Tulsa. "People are going to look at this season and my scoring's up and I'm shooting more and I'm more aggressive, and, yes, I do have to have that in my game always.
"But this isn't my ideal season. In some situations I do have to call my number, and that's just out of character for me. It's a different role and it is, at times, uncomfortable."
After 10 years in the league, Bird is comfortable with herself as a basketball player. If she goes 0 for 3 with 10 assists and the Storm wins, she's ecstatic.
"Her team mentality brings the best out of the Seattle Storm," said Agler, who compares her selflessness with Celtics legend Bill Russell. "And after her career is done, she'll probably be recognized as one of the best guards, if not the best guard, ever to play the game."
When Bird first arrived in Seattle, she was a reluctant warrior. Coming from Connecticut, she was an East Coaster who wasn't keen on playing for a team almost 3,000 miles from New York.
But she has grown to love Seattle. Once a shy, if accommodating, interviewee, talking with Bird now doesn't feel like work. It's fun. At 30, after winning a pair of WNBA championships here, including last season, she has grown up in this city.
Will she stay? Her contract expires at the end of the season.
"We're in dialogue with her agents," Agler said. "I've talked with her a little bit. Obviously I can't speak for her, but I do know that she just bought a brand new home here."
It seems almost certain she will sign a long-term extension before the season ends. She wants to continue her career here.
"Brian's mentioned the contract a couple times," Bird said. "You kind of have to go through a process. We'll see what happens. We'll keep everyone in suspense."
She laughed at the thought. Game time was almost eight hours away. She could relax before her next flight into another hoop hurricane.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
email@example.com | 206-464-2176
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